Gulf Coast Phenology Trail

The Gulf Coast contains rich and varied ecosystems, from pine savanna to open marsh. The Refuges in this region are critical to preserving habitat and resources for resident and migratory wildlife. 

Despite the importance of this area, we don't know much about the phenology of Southeast plants. The Gulf Coast Phenology Trail seeks to better understand the phenology of focal species in this region, and how these species respond to a changing climate. For example, with a better understanding of the timing of leafing of invasive Chinese tallow - which is also when the majority of its resources are in its leaves rather than in the ground - managers can determine the best time to treat an area with prescribed fire. We can also gain increased knowledge about unique species, such as pitcher plants and how the timing of their flowering relates to fires.  

We are currently in the development stages of the Gulf Coast Phenology Trail. At the beginning of 2017, we selected monitoring locations, tagged plants and decided on animal checklists, and trained volunteers in monitoring. We have continued to host trainings as new trail locations come on board. 

Read about what we have accomplished so far in our 2018 Annual Report and 2017 Annual Report

Our Mission

We seek to encourage people to engage in outdoor education, ask and answer local science management and climate change questions, and connect organizations together through a shared community monitoring project.


Primary Questions:

Photo: USFWS1. Does phenology of native Gulf Coast plants change over time under changing climates?

2. Does phenology of Gulf Coast plants differ between native and non-native plants?

3. Does the phenology of native plant pollinators match native plant phenology over time under changing climate?

4. Is there an East-West gradient in the timing of phenology of certain focal species, from Louisiana to Alabama?

Secondary Questions: 

Photo: Tom Grey1. What is the variation in phenology in similar habitats across the Trail?

2. Does phenology of focal species differ between areas that have been disturbed by fire, storm, etc. and those that have not?

3. How is the arrival and departure of migrating animals, such as purple martin, shifting in response to a changing climate?

Focal Species:

Photo: Jason Hollinger via Wikimedia CommonsTrees: Red Maple, Longleaf pine, Slash Pine, Sweet Bay

Shrubs: Red bay, Wax Myrtle, Yaupon holly, Hibiscus

Herbs: Pitcher Plants, Thistles, Milkweeds, Bog Meadow Beauty, Spartina/marsh plants, Orchids

Grasses: Toothache grass, Little bluestem, Wire grass

Invasives: Chinese Tallow Tree, Cogon Grass, Phragmites

Animals: Purple martins, butterflies, osprey, bluebirds


Our Partners

  • Grand Bay NERR
  • Grand Bay NWR
  • Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR
  • Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex
  • Big Branch Marsh NWR
  • Bayou Sauvage NWR
  • Crosby Arboretum 
  • Pascagoula River Audubon Center
  • Barataria Preserve, Jean Lafitte NHPP
  • Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Gautier Campus
  • USM Marine Education Center
  • Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, Jean Lafitte NHPP
  • McLeod Water Park
  • Couturie Forest Phenology Trail (New Orleans City Parks)
  • USA National Phenology Network

Welcome our newest Trail member, Couturie Forest Phenology Trail!

Couturie Forest Phenology Trail sign

The newest member of the Gulf Coast Phenology Trail is New Orleans City Park, which has set up the Couturie Forest Phenology Trail. The goals of this trail are to provide a citizen science opportunity in the pak, as well as to gain information about the phenology of trees and other plants in the park to inform a future master plan for the Couturie Forest. 

Meet our Gulf Coast Phenology Trail Coordinator

Gail Bishop, Phenology Trail Coordinator

Contact Gail at Bishop has called Ocean Springs home since 1986 although she has also lived in Florida, Alabama, and Kentucky. She retired from the National Park Service as a superintendent but spent much of her career in interpretation and education. She has volunteered for Habitat Stewards, Audubon, the NPS, and for the Gulf Coast Phenology Trail. She loves the northern Gulf Coast and appreciates the work that volunteers do to protect the natural resources.

Join Us!

Want to be a part of the Gulf Coast Phenology Trail? We are seeking motivated volunteer phenology observers and interested Partner Organizations to join this effort.

Contact Trail Coordinator Gail Bishop at